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PLACES TO SEE > RESERVES > Paynes Creek National Park


Paynes Creek National Park was declared a nature reserve in May 1994 and a national park in 1999. The 30,000 acres of land was set aside to protect a variety of wetland habitats and the unique physiographic feature of an extensive sequence of storm-built coastal ridges. The reserve is bordered by the banks of Monkey River to the north, miles of beach ridge to the east, inland savannah to the west, and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve to the south.

Punta Ycacos Lagoon entrance to Paynes Creek

Paynes Creek National Park is unique in that it protects so many different habitats in a small area. Remnants of a gallery forest and old second growth forest flourish on the northern border of the park, along side the Monkey River. Herbaceous marshland borders the second growth forest. Payne's Creek itself is surrounded by a mix of broadleaf and marshland vegetation. Further south and to the west are pineridge savannahs consisting mostly of grassland with clumps of palmetto and southern pine. The most southern border habitat is brackish mangrove swamp associated with the Punta Ycacos lagoon system. The Caribbean shore vegetation is dominated by littoral thicket species such as Cocoplum and Sea-grape. Cashew Trees have established in some areas, and Coconut Palms are scattered about. This is the most extensive stretch of coastline in Belize not lined with mangrove.

Hypersaline, saline and brackish lagoons, mangrove wetlands, broadleaf and riparian forests and pineridge savannahs provide a beautiful, remote environment which harbors an incredible amount of biodiversity. Over 300 known species of birds have been identified at Paynes Creek. Herds of white-tail deer forage on the savanna, many of their tracks are evident on the parks trails. The roars of howler monkeys are often heard nearby. They feed and live in the trees above, and are sometimes difficult to spot but their smell is distinct. The area is also home to other wild animals including fox, peccary, gibnut, armadillo, crocodile and the jaguar.

Visitor Center/ Rnager Station Map

The best way to explore this site is by boat through the Punta Ycacos Lagoon. The area is an important manatee breeding ground and supports an ibis nesting site, a hawksbill turtle nesting site, and a large wading bird population.

Punta Ycacos Lagoon is increasingly used for sports fishing. To enter Paynes Creek National Park, you're boatman will navigate through a maze of mangrove channels into a wide open lagoon with a small dock on the far shore. A ranger station is a couple 100 yards from the dock.

A one-hour hike from the ranger station through a wide open pineridge savannah takes you to the edge of the broadleaf forest. The temperature drops significantly as you disappear under the tall canopy. Trails are difficult to find and follow and several short bridges, made from small tree trunks, cross over creeks throughout the forest. Pine Ridge Habitat In the rainy season, the trails are under water; some parts in the forest are knee-high. "Crocodile Pond" is a wide section of Payne's Creek where crocodiles, as long as 10-feet long, feed and breed. "Jabiru Pond" is a small lake near the ranger station that never goes dry. Jabirus are commonly seen during the months of January and March. The lake is full of fish and a number of birds, such as herons and egrets feed there year around. It is highly recommended to only visit the park with an experienced guide.

A full day can easily be spent exploring the park. Although a clear map of the trails is posted by the station, a guide is a must. Camping is available and recommended, especially since wildlife is more active early morning and late evening. Food can be provided if arrangements are made ahead of time. Kayaking and fishing are also an option in the lagoon.

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